Author: Sarah Koci Scheilz
Published: Tuesday, 10 Sep 2019
As a parent of children on their way to adulthood, the mission of Junior Achievement resonated with Jon Pahl instantly. “As a dad, I’m making sure my kids are prepared for life in a lot of different ways from their career to interacting with people and being good citizens. Schools just can’t get to that all the time and that’s where Junior Achievement fills such a gap,” he says. “And so I fell in love with the mission of Junior Achievement.”
Jon, who serves as the President of the Midwest operation of Nabholz Construction, loves bringing the many lessons he’s learned throughout his career to third grade classrooms around the community — and he’s brought his team at Nabholz along with him.
Jon’s first JA experience was in a third grade classroom. “The third grade JA curriculum talks about entrepreneurship, the value of money and even sales tax,” Jon shares. “These are lessons parents ought to be teaching their kids, but they don’t always know how. It’s important for kids to hear this message, and they’re hearing it in the JA classroom.”
During one of Jon’s JA classroom sessions, the lesson plan centered around creating a restaurant. In small groups, kids named their restaurant, established a menu and developed a pricing structure for the food they had to deliver. “It’s fun to watch the dynamics of these small groups,” Jon relates. “Their products were super creative. It’s awesome to see what concepts they come up with and how they present the end product.”
Through interactive lessons like this, Jon sees students experiencing lightbulb moments when the curriculum really clicks. “The cool part is you can see that moment of understanding,” Jon explains, “but it's also a moment of pride. They're proud that they actually grasp the concept and have come forward in their education. That's the rewarding part for me. They walk away knowing they can approach that problem for life.”
Jon was pleasantly surprised when the session ended with a line of hugs. “I was a bit intimidated when I first walked in,” Jon admits. “As a stranger, I wasn’t sure if I would be welcomed, but it was fun. The second day I came back, the kids were so excited to see me and when I left, I got a bunch of hugs!”
Because one key focus area of Nabholz’s work is K-12 education construction, Jon was eager to bring his employees into the JA classroom. “We are creating these places where education and change happen,” Jon notes. “And so it's rewarding to see some of our folks raise their hands and say, ‘Put me in that experience and let me see firsthand what happens inside the spaces we build.’”
When his employees come back from volunteering with Junior Achievement, Jon sees the joy they experience seeing these kids and connecting the dots between building schools and facilitating the important things that happen there.
Becoming a part of Junior Achievement has been beneficial to the culture of Nabholz construction. “People don't leave companies, they leave people,” Jon explains. “We have to develop relationships and make sure we're all compelled by the same culture and the same purpose. When JA came and told us about their mission and vision, we got to soak that up together as a team and bounce ideas off each other.” Through interacting with Junior Achievement, Nabholz team members got to experience something together, share fun stories and talk about what lessons they learned.
“The volunteers who have done JA raised their hands to do it again,” Jon shares. “We're going to make JA a regular part of our volunteer experience and part of our culture. Part of our purpose statement as a corporation is to build our communities, and Junior Achievement is a beautiful picture of how we can build communities and invest in that next generation.”
Nothing frustrates Jon more than complaining about a problem without bringing forward a solution. While he’s heard many people complain about the next generation, he doesn’t see them offering to help. “JA is such a great solution,” Jon says. “It's an easy way to make a difference on a big scale. With a room of 20 kids, you get to share about what it is to be a good citizen and a good adult. You really can make a difference using the JA curriculum.”
“In my opinion,” Jon adds, “we’re going to fail as a company if we don’t prepare the next generation of builders, professionals, carpenters, engineers and project managers. If we don't prepare those people to be good citizens and good role models, we’re going to fail. We owe it to our future to prepare this next generation and make sure they hear the lessons they need to hear.”
Take the responsibility to prepare the next generation. Teach students today what it means to be a good citizen and a good person in the world. Your help is needed! Become a part of Junior Achievement today and make a difference.